Bargain Basement Renovation Hacks



The basement is probably one of the most underappreciated rooms in your entire home. But there’s something rather special about the basement: usually, it’s also the only room in the house with no windows. Though that might not sound particularly desirable, it opens up new possibilities if you decide to renovate, transforming an otherwise dull space into an unusual alcove, different from anywhere else in your house.

Renovating a basement, however, is no easy task. It takes planning, preparation, and a little know-how to boot.


Expert Tip #1: Don’t Think Linearly

When it comes to basements, the possibilities are limitless. No, really!

Many basements are plagued by the need for supporting joists or structural elements, which many people think limits their ambition, preventing them from using their basement space as they’d like. But as it turns out, there are actually a number of ways of reducing the number of supporting poles which cover the space, without reducing structural integrity. It’s just a case of finding out what they are.



According to Anne Higuera, a construction expert, people have more latitude than they think when renovating their basements. They can take out offending supporting poles while strengthening others. In fact, it’s entirely possible to totally remove any supporting joists in the interior of the space, so long as corner and wall struts are adequately reinforced. Higuera also says that space-consuming elements, like staircases, can be remodeled to take us less room or be moved altogether.


Expert Tip #2: Pick A “Basement Style”

Basements, thanks to their unique location in the home, have a fundamentally different feel to everywhere else. Whether it’s their lack of window (or high windows), their disconnectedness, or the fact that you can only reach them by going underground, they demand a new approach.

But how do you achieve a different “basement style?” One thing that works really well, especially if you have a contemporary or period-themed home, is to mix classical and modern elements together. Nothing screams “new space” more than a mishmash of different styles and forms, and this is precisely what eclectic basements do.


Expert Tip #3: Use Soundproofing

One of the great things about basements is that they are out of the way of the rest of the home. In practice, this means that you can theoretically have a party in the basement, and a baby sleeping soundly on the first, without the noise traveling upstairs.

But soundproof basements are by no means guaranteed. Just like other rooms in your home, proper planning needs to go into the process. Sound insulation in the ceiling can help, but so too can something called an RC channel which is effectively a long piece of metal that looks like a hat. It works by absorbing sound waves, even if they travel through the drywall.


Expert Tip #4: Banish Water

Because foundations are built into the ground, they can often suffer from damp or a rising water table. It’s crucial, however, to make sure that water is totally eliminated from the basement before you start installing decorations, soundproofing, and furniture, let alone make changes to the architecture.

So what can you do about waterproofing your basement? There is a technology called the hydraway waterproofing system. You can read about it here. Essentially, it’s a cost effective way to divert water away from your property, keeping it fungus-free. Today, the technology is used in foundation repairs up and down the country.


Expert Tip #5: Dig Down


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The chances are that your basement was never intended to be a living space. More likely than not, it was designed to store utilities, and that’s about it. Thus, if you’ve got lofty goals for your basement, you’ll want to increase the ceiling height. And the only way to do that, without knocking your house down and starting again, is to dig down.

Yes, it’s costly. But it also the only way to get rid of unsightly ductwork and piping that runs along the ceiling in the majority of basements. Ideally, you’d like both the floor and the ceiling in the basement to be flush, like every other room in your home.


Expert Tip #6: Get Rid Of Hazards

Before 1978, the date when using asbestos in residential properties became illegal, most basement pipes were sealed using the banned compound. Asbestos is hazardous and can lead to lung conditions years later, even if exposure is minimal. It’s certainly not something you want to be around in your basement, especially if you’re planning on spending any significant time down there.

The good news is that contractors are usually well versed in identifying and removing hazardous compounds that may have been used in the construction of your basement, like asbestos. Your best bet is to talk to them about your concerns before proceeding.


Expert Tip #7: Find Safe Exits

If you’re planning on renovating your basement, you’ll no doubt bump up, at some point, against building codes. There are several building codes you need to be aware of when altering a basement. The first is that the basement needs a safe exit route in case of emergency. Usually, this means that there needs to be an opening window that’s big enough to crawl out of. You may need to discuss this with your contractor, as they may be required to dig down the window well to provide an escape route up to ground level.


Expert Tip #8: Consider Waste Drainage

In above-ground rooms, waste drains from the home under the force of gravity. Toilet and shower waste travel through the drainage system and out into the wider network. With that said, basements present a new challenge. Because they’re below ground, waste often can’t drain under the force of gravity, unless you place things like bathrooms and sinks carefully.

If it turns out that the waste flows out below the level of the wider sewage system, you’ll need a pump that can raise household waste back up to the proper level. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a big septic tank and nowhere for the waste to go.

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